Golf Course Management

AUG 2014

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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32 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 08.14 Endophytes: The friendly fungi Now more than ever golf course superinten- dents are looking for ways to increase turfgrass quality with fewer inputs. Increasing produc - tivity can come from improved genetics, more effective and effcient cultural practices and en - dophytes. Endophytes, as they pertain to turfgrass, are intercellular fungi that form mutualis - tic relationships with many turf species. Turf species that commonly beneft from endo - phytes are perennial ryegrass, tall fescue and fne fescue. Kentucky bluegrass is not com - patible with endophytes, which are specifc to particular host species. Endophytes survive within the plant by using energy produced by the plant; in return, the endophytes provide the host plant with numerous benefts. Toxic compounds produced by endophytes — chiefy the alkaloids peramine and loline — can deter insect herbivory in turfgrass stands (1). En - dophytes have also been shown to increase drought tolerance in tall fescue and perennial ryegrass (2). In fne fescues, endophytes are associated with reduction in the incidence of the common fungal pathogen dollar spot (3). These benefts generally come with little ex - pense to the plant because it is not in the best interest of the endophyte to take more than its share of the available energy since the endo - phyte relies on the plant for survival and re- production. Endophytes also produce several mildly toxic alkaloids that can deter insect and animal feeding. In pasture or hay pro - duction systems, this can be of some concern, Garett Heineck but these alkaloids should not be a problem in other situations. Symbiotic fungal relationships can be ben - efcial to turf managers by allowing them to reduce inputs such as water and pesticides. However, not all turf species are compatible with endophytes. Furthermore, not all varieties that beneft from endophytes are infected with viable (alive within seed) endophyte. There are a few things to keep in mind when using endo - phyte-infected grass seed. • Check to see if the species you intend to use can be infected with endophytes (that is, tall fescue, fne fescue and perennial rye - grass). • Check the variety bag or label for the phrase "endophyte enhanced," as this is a good in - dicator of endophyte infection. • Use the seed as quickly as possible to re - tain its viability, or store it at appropriate temperatures. Research has shown that vi - ability can be retained for over two years when seed is stored at temperatures below approximately 40 F (4 C). Poor seed storage will drastically reduce endophyte viability, so make sure the seed source is reliable (4). Scientists at the University of Minnesota are developing turfgrasses that require fewer inputs while continuing to provide important functions and to retain acceptable aesthetics. For example, breeding in perennial ryegrass has focused on improving traits such as win - Presented in Partnership with Barenbrug (turf) ter hardiness and disease resistance. Develop- ing a better understanding of how endophytes affect these and other traits will greatly beneft our program and result in improved low-input turfgrasses for use on golf courses and other turf areas. Garett Heineck is a research assistant in the department of horticultural science at the University of Minnesota– St. Paul. Literature cited 1. Bush, L.P., H.H. Wilkinson and C.L. Schardl. 1997. Bioprotective alkaloids of grass-fungal endophyte symbioses. Plant Physiology 114(1):1. 2. Kane, K.H. 2011. Effects of endophyte infection on drought stress tolerance of Lolium perenne accessions from the Mediterranean region. Envi - ronmental and Experimental Botany 71(3):337– 344. 3. Ruemmele, B.A., L.A. Brilman and D.R. Huff. 1995. Fine fescue germplasm diversity and vul - nerability. Crop Science 35(2):313–316. 4. Tian, P., T.-N. Le, K.F. Smith, J.W. Forster, K.M. Guthridge and G.C. Spangenberg. 2013. Stability and viability of novel perennial ryegrass host– Neotyphodium endophyte associations. Crop Pasture Science 64(1): 39–50. Endophyte-infected seed can produce turfgrass plants that are more resistant to heat and to certain fungal diseases than plants that do not beneft from endophyte infection. Photo by Kari Hugie

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